My project consists of an interactive digital map that will portray Hispanic women writers who have been in Iowa City. When I first thought about the project the intention was to do a cartography of all Hispanic writers, both women and men. However, due to the timeframe of the project and the fact that I’m also interested in gender and women literature, I decided to narrow it to women.
I spent the first weeks building the corpus of the women, collecting names, dates and motives for their stay in Iowa. I´m also trying to gather information about how Iowa´s literary environment influenced their work.
My main resources are the International Writing Program and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, as most of the women have been invited by those departments. But I have also found I might be able to add a couple that came through other departments.
Some interesting facts I have found so far is that after the year 2000 there is a lot of information, as everything was digitalized. However, finding information from women who were here in previous decades can be quite a challenge. I have been at the Special Archives at the library browsing through old folders, but as they are binding folders, the information is pretty difficult to scan.
I have also found that for many, Iowa was the place where they finished a book, got one of their works translated and published later into English, or met a famous writer who many years later translated their work. Some of the women that came in the seventies or eighties (and in the last few years as well) later stayed in the U.S. teaching at universities or presenting at conferences, which led me to wonder if Iowa City was just the turning point that opened a path to somewhere else in the U.S. I have also noticed that many of the books from these women from the seventies or eighties have well-known Hispanic male writers more present in their quotes or epigraphs. For example, in the back of the book of one of the writers, Fanny Buitrago, it´s even printed that Juan Rulfo once said she was one of Latin America best writers because she wrote like a man. This scenario changed in books from around the 2000s onwards where women seem to be more present in the books´ quotations or epigraphs.
And lastly, I have noticed that as a writer from Latin America I share many of the things that these women said in their interviews and works, even those who came in the seventies and eighties. Among the findings: a deep sense of identity of belonging to Latin America, of belonging to a Hispanic country, even stronger than when they were in their own countries. Also, the quiet pace of this city that allows a very unique place of silence to write, the winter, the snow, the strong presence of the river; or a place where there are writers in every corner, a city that breathes books and words.
Soon I will start the next step of my project, which will encompass putting all the information I have found in the digital map, and that is where the next challenge starts, learning a different language to me, the digital one.
Mariana Mazer – MFA in Spanish Creative Writing